Channing Tatum stars as blue collar southerner-turned-criminal mastermind Jimmy Logan in the low-key, low-energy, but entirely likable heist flick Logan Lucky, which marks director Steven Soderbergh’s return to the big screen following a self-imposed retirement.
Soderbergh’s time off amounted to four years following the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra in 2013, though the director worked on TV’s The Knick during that span. Logan Lucky picks up right where he left off, following a string of minor hits that included the underrated Haywire, Magic Mike, and Side Effects.
Bolstered by a terrific supporting cast, Lucky co-stars Adam Driver as Jimmy’s bartending brother and Iraq War vet who gets wrapped up in the heist despite having lost an arm in the service.
That heist plan: lift cash from underneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which uses a series of pneumatic tubes to disperse money from concession stands to a central vault during its heavily attended sporting events.
If Jimmy – who was recently fired from a repair job working in the tunnels beneath the race track – and crew can interrupt those pneumatic tubes, there’s a fortune to be made.
One problem: the explosive expert they need, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is currently serving time. They’ll need to break into prison, sneak Bang out, and then slip him back in unnoticed for the plan to work.
A world away from James Bond, Craig gets a rare chance to cut loose inside of his bleach-blond, tatted-up redneck character, and really steals the show (despite an inconsistent Southern drawl). Jack Quaid (son of Dennis) and Brian Gleeson (son of Brendan) are also a lot of fun as Bang’s brothers, who he brings along for the heist.
Along for the ride are Katie Holmes as Jimmy’s ex-wife, Riley Keough as the Logan sister, and Katherine Waterston (Alien: Covenant) as a potential love interest. Away from the heist movie elements, the scenes between Tatum and Waterston, and Tatum and his on-screen daughter, are genuinely charming.
The heist itself is entirely fun, but so low on energy or external threat that it doesn’t deliver the kind of thrills audiences might expect. Like Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy, it’s played not so much for comedy, but for wink-wink pizzazz.
After the movie seems to come to its logical conclusion, an odd epilogue-like finale involving a pair of FBI agents (played by Hilary Swank and Blue Ruin’s Macon Blair) pointlessly stretch things out a little longer.
Seth MacFarlane has an amusing bit part as a blusterous British energy drink promoter, and a number of real-life NASCAR drivers (including Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch) show up in cameo roles; LeAnn Rimes sings the National Anthem at the Speedway. Dwight Yoakam is also fun as the prison warden.
While it doesn’t reinvent the heist movie, Logan Lucky puts a appealing southern spin on the proceedings, and has charm to spare. After a disappointing summer at the multiplex, it’s great to see a film this assured from a top-level director returning to the big screen.